15 Best Places to Visit in Scotland – A Magical Guide to Scotland

The land of fairytales, mystical creatures, bagpipes, and whiskey. Scotland’s charm has captivated millions of tourists every year and with good reason. The best places to visit in Scotland you will experience Scotland’s exciting history, enchanting folklore, and unique culture.

Scotland has been at the top of my travel list for many years, and when I finally got the chance to experience it for myself, I fell in love immediately with this country.

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15 Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Scotland is the inspiration for so many of our favorite fairytales and folklore. From Harry Potter to Shrek, Ghillie Dhu to the Loch Ness Monster, the list goes on. 

best places to visit in Scotland, scottish highlands, nature

During my trip to Scotland, I was immediately in love with the historic charm of Edinburgh and the business of Glasglow. I was awe-struck at the steep mountains, beautiful coastline, and just the greenness of it all. Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

The moment you step off the airplane in Scotland, you are immediately swept into the beauty that the land has to offer. You are stepping into a real-life fairytale with beautiful castle ruins, lush greenery, and vibrant and warm culture.

Scotland is truly like no other, whether you have 2 days or 10 days to visit, let’s dive into all the best places to visit in Scotland.

scotland road trip

Stirling

Location: One hour’s drive northeast of Edinburgh

Duration: half-day to full day

To start, Stirling is a picture-perfect city to visit in Scotland. Situated nearby both Edinburgh and Glasgow, this city is worth stopping in just for its picturesque streets. The famous Stirling Castle is the center of the city, which sits on top of a hill.

Stirling ranks as one of the best places to visit in Scotland because its sloping streets and medieval architecture are unlike any other city in Scotland. Park your car at the bottom and enjoy the views on your hike up to Stirling Castle. At the top, there are stunning views of traditional Scottish countryside.

            best places to visit in Scotland, stirling scotland, europe

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things To Do

  • Stirling Castle – One of the largest and best-preserved castles in Scotland. Skip the crowds in Edinburgh and visit this castle built in 1456. Plan to spend about 1-2 hours here, as this castle is not as big as the Edinburgh Castle.
  • Explore the charm of the Old Town – Park your car at the train station, at the base of this beautiful city and begin to wander the historic old town streets. Stirling is a well-preserved city that immediately transports you into medieval times when you arrive. Spend your time in Stirling grabbing a bite of traditional Scottish food or If you’re keen to stretch your legs and walk around, try a walking tour!

North Berwick

Location: Less than 1 hours drive from Edinburgh

Duration: Half-day

North Berwick is a magical coastal town in Scotland. Like most of Scotland, this seaside town is best to visit in the summer. If you are a fan of pastel-lined streets, beach access, and beautiful castles then North Berwick is for you. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Scotland to golf!

Additionally, you won’t find many tourists in this cute town, so it’s best to take it slow. Visiting North Berwick will be a relaxing day. Assuming you will be driving from Edinburgh to North Berwick, it’s best to start in the morning. When you arrive, first visit the Tantellon Castle, and then head into town. Grab yourself a coffee, shop around, or head to the beach. Then, finish your day exploring the golf range as you head back into Edinburgh.

Scotland is a cold country, that receives few sunny days a year. If you are lucky enough to visit on a warm summer day, you’ll find loads of locals on the beach basking in the summer sun!

best places to visit in Scotland, north berwick, castle on the ocean

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things To Do

  • Tantellon Castle – This 14th Century Castle ruins overlook cliffs leading into the North Sea. Currently under construction, this castle you cannot enter but can walk the grounds of. The grounds are spectacular! Clear signage to learn more, beautiful picture opportunities, and lots of birds to wildlife watching.
  • Wildlife Center and Tours – Wildlife is abundant in this coastal town. The newly constructed Wildlife Center is located in the heart of town, along the beach. Here you can learn about the seabirds and even book a tour to get up and close. 

Perth

Location: One hour north of Edinburgh towards Inverness

Duration: Few hours-half day

Perth is a quaint town in Scotland located between Edinburgh and Inverness, making it a popular stopping point for travelers on this route. Perth’s beautiful river, quaint city streets, and historic sites bring the city its unique charm.

However, Perth is a lovely stop to make if you are looking to stretch your legs during a road trip, as there are many food options, and beautiful streets to explore. The best places to visit in Scotland are ones where you experience the culture, and this is a great spot for that.

Things to do

  • Scone Palace – The former crowning place for many Scottish kings including Macbeth, Robert the Bruce, and Charles II. Scone Palace is a great stop for those who enjoy Scottish history. This Palace includes beautiful gardens to explore, so allow a few hours for your visit.
  • High Street Shopping – A cute street with loads of shopping, an indoor shopping mall, and many cafes and restaurants on the surrounding streets. Perth is very walkable, so park as close to the city center on the map as you can and enjoy roaming the street. On a nice summer day, you’ll find lots of locals as well as musicians and entertainers.

During my stop in Perth, we shopping along this street and ate at The Tavern, just a quick walk away from High Street. If you’re looking for the best pub, I’d recommend The Old Ship Inn.

Pitlochry

Location: 1 hour 30 minutes north of Edinburgh

Duration: Few Hours-Half Day

After a quick Google search of Pitlochry, it is easy to see why many itineraries have a stop here. Next up, this town is right out of a fairytale textbook page. While Pitlochry may be a small town, it has plenty to do to fill a few hours to a half day. If you’d like to take it even slower, I’d recommend booking a hotel here for the night too, as it is exactly halfway between Edinburgh and Inverness. 

Pitlochry is less about staying busy and more about visiting a beautiful Scottish Highlands town. Pitlochry is so beautiful, it is easy to get lost daydreaming in a cafe or enjoying Whiskey in one of its many distilleries. 

best places to visit in Scotland

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Visit a Distillery – Despite being a relatively small town, Pitlochry hosts many Whiskey Distilleries, the most popular being Blair Athol Distillery. I am not one for Whiskey, but I can say that this distillery is stunningly beautiful on the outside while cozy and modern on the inside.
  • Queens View – A quick 15-minute drive outside the city you’ll find a hidden nature paradise, one of the best places to visit in Scotland for nature. The Queen’s View is the most beautiful stop along the road connecting Edinburgh and Inverness. When you arrive at the Queen View, there is a large parking lot, a visitors center, and marked trails to the view. The easy walk to the view from the parking lot is no more than 5 minutes and is wheelchair accessible. Stay here for a few minutes or an hour and soak in beautiful Scotland. Not to mention, the road connecting Pitlochry and The Queens View is a windy road.
  • Practice your Photography – Pitlochry was one of my favorite stops in all of Scotland because of how picture-perfect it is! Drive around, get lost walking, and enjoy all the views. It is a beautiful little town with so many opportunities to capture its charm.
  • Festival Theater – If you find yourself visiting in the summer, consider stopping to see a show at the famous Festival Theater. Known to be one of the best theaters in Scotland, attracting over 100,000 people a year, this theater is a great way to spend a day or evening in Pitlochry.

Inverness

Location: 3 hours drive north of Edinburgh

Duration: 1-2 days

If the Loch Ness Monster is real, then it’s in Scotland! This mythical creature has made Scotland known all around the world, and Inverness is the largest city to it. Inverness is one of the best places to visit in Scotland because is the gateway to the famous Loch Ness monster but also is home to many wonderful things.

Inverness is a popular spot for tourists to spend a few days and is a cultural hub of Scotland. However, many of these tourists use Inverness as a “home base” for a few days as they go out and explore during the day and return to Inverness at night to sleep. Inverness is within driving distance to many beautiful attractions and nature. But, if I had to choose between Inverness and Glencoe for nature, spend your time in Glencoe. 

If you are doing a quick trip to Scotland, stay here for 1 day, but if you have more time to spare, consider stopping for 2 or even 3 days in Inverness. With no shortage of things to do, you will enjoy your time here.

inverness, best places to visit in Scotland

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Walking Tour – The best way to see a new city, especially one known for its culture and history, is a walking tour! I love doing a walking tour on my first day in a new city, as the local guide can give recommendations on things to do or where to eat. You might get inspiration as you learn more about the beautiful streets of Inverness.
  • Inverness Cathedral – Dedicated to St. Andrew, this Cathedral is stunning and worth a look around. 
  • Walk along the River Ness – Enjoy a sunset walk on the River Ness. This walk is so peaceful and a lovely way to spend your time.
  • Enjoy the culture hub on Inverness – check out a museum (or two!) during your time here, take a Scottish kilt lesson, you name it, they have it.

Loch Ness

Location: Halfway between Inverness and Fort William, Scottish Highlands

Duration: Half Day

The most famous Loch in Scotland, while arguably one of the most famous bodies of water in the world! Tourists from all over the world flock to Scotland to see if the famous Loch Ness is real, with their own eyes. Of course, this tops of the list of best places to visit in Scotland.

The Loch Ness monster tale dates back thousands of years, but had a resurgence in popularity in 1933, when a couple claimed to have seen it. Today, tourists take boat tours of Loch Ness and hear stories about the fairy tale.

Whether you believe in Nessie or not, this Loch is worth a visit because of its stunning views.

If you are tight on time, I would recommend skipping the boat tour, but exploring the stops along the way and taking in the sites. The boat tour is a half-day activity and there are so many other options to see! 

castle in scotland

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Urquhart Castle Grounds –  WOW! That is the best way to describe this Castle. This castle is stunning and worth a visit. Situated right in the middle of Loch Ness, this castle offers breathtaking views and captivating history.
  • Cruise along the Loch – as mentioned above, if you are short on time I would recommend the castle over the cruise, but if you have the time, the cruise is the best day to learn about the Loch Ness monster, and maybe even sight it yourself! This fun activity takes a half-day and gets crowded, so it is best to book your tour in advance.

Fort William

Location: 1 hour and 30-minute drive southwest from Inverness. 3-hour drive from Edinburgh

Duration: 2-4 days

The outdoor adventure capital of Scotland, Fort William has no shortage of things to do! This captivating place caught me completely off guard during my visit, in all the best ways! Fort William is a decent-sized town with SO much to do. If you are an outdoor and nature enthusiast, this is going to be your heaven.

Located just outside of Ben Nevis, Fort William is home to rugged mountains, historic sights, distilleries, and lots of inspiration for the popular Harry Potter films. This is, in my opinion, the very best place to visit in Scotland.

best places to visit in Scotland, fort william scotland, harry potter train

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Jacobite Steam Train – Also known as the Harry Potter Train in Scotland, this train is used in the filming of 3 different Harry Potter movies! Take this historic steam train through the heart of the Scottish highlands and indulge in one of the most beautiful train rides in the whole world.

Want to learn more about the Jacobite Steam Train? See my comprehensive guide HERE!

  • Visit Ben Nevis – Ben Nevis is the tallest point in Scotland. This mountain and its surrounding areas are absolutely worth your visit while in Scotland, so much so, it’s next on the list!
  • Book an adventure tour – Embrace your outdoorsy side by booking one of Fort William’s incredible. Rent a bike, white water raft, or go skiing, all in Fort William!
  • West Highland Museum – Visit this museum to learn more about the West Highlands of Scotland. This quaint museum is a great rainy day activity. 

Ben Nevis

Location: 15-30 minute drive from Fort William

Duration: 2 days

The tallest point in Scotland is worth a spot on the best places to visit in Scotland! Ben Nevis stands at 4,413 feet, or 1,345 meters, tall and can be summited in a days hike. This park isn’t all hiking uphill, it’s a beautiful drive with sidewalks and trails for all athletic abilities. 

The drive alone through the park is worth it. During the drive, you are greeted with rollings green hills, lots of sheep and wildlife, and tall mountain peaks. This is the heart of the Scottish Highlands.

If you are looking to hike, below I have listed some of my favorites in the park.

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Summit Ben Nevis – Of course, no trip to Ben Nevis is fully complete without summiting the tallest point in Scotland! This hike takes about 8 hours round trip and is not for the faint of heart. This almost 10-mile out-and-back hike is best summited on a sunny day but is open year-round. 
  • Steall Falls Train – You may recognize this famous trail from the Harry Potter films as the home to the Quidditch arena! This easy-to-moderate trail is located in the back of Ben Nevis, at Upper Falls. The parking lot is at the dead end of the road and has space for 20 cars are so. This trail is very popular and is best to get to before 9 am. During this hike, you are treated to lush green scenery, beautiful rock formations, valley views, and ending with a spectacular waterfall.

Glencoe

Location: 30-60 minute drive south of Fort William

Duration: Half Day-3 days

When thinking of the Scottish Highlands, you probably think of Glencoe. Glencoe is not a town, but instead a region that is full of spectacular views of the Scottish Highlands. Glencoe is situated south of Fort Williams, and tourists can easily spend a half day or a few days in this area, depending on how much you like to hike. 

This region is popular for driving and taking it slow. Stop at a few lookout points along the drive to be treated with soaring mountains and deep valleys. If you’re up for hiking, see below for the best things to do. Be sure to download the app “All Trails” to give you more information on each hike!

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Corie Gabhail (The Lost Valley) Hike – This 2.5-mile out-and-back trail is one of the most popular in this area because of its well-maintained trail and beautiful views of the mountains and waterfalls. It is a hard hike, with an elevation gain of over 800 feet, but can be accomplished in just a few hours.
  • Signal Rock, Ann Torr, and Hagrids Hut Hike – This easy 2.2-mile hike takes about an hour and is just off the main highway. This short hike is packed with lots of views and even inspiration for the Harry Potter movies. Don’t expect to see Hagrid’s Hut (a harry potter location) because it has since been moved to the movie studios, but you can see the inspiration behind it.

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park 

Location: 1 hour and 10 minutes drive from Edinburgh. 40 minutes drive from Glasgow.

Duration: 1 day

The drive from the busy cities of the south to the Scottish Highlands in the north is a popular route for tourists, and Loch Lomond is the start of the Scottish Highlands. This beautiful park is massive and chalked full of outdoor activities. From cycling, to swimming, to snow sports, it’s easy to see why this is on so many lists.

This park is popular with tourists and locals because of its close proximity to Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow. 

If you have lots of time in Scotland, definitely check out this park and enjoy the sights. Because it is off the highway a bit, if you are short on time I would recommend skipping it and heading to your next spot. Scotland is full of so much beautiful nature, this park is no exception.

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Hiking – In this park, it is hard to narrow it down to just one hiking path. I’d recommend checking out All Trails before your visit.

Glasglow

Location: 1-hour drive from Edinburgh. South of Scotland

Duration: 1 Day

The biggest city in Scotland, Glasgow is the business hub and much less touristy than its neighboring city, Edinburgh. Glasgow is worth a visit to see what city life is like in Scotland. Because there is plenty to see and do in this city, you won’t get bored, but limit your time here because there is so much more to Scotland!

Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Things to do

  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – This museum is the number 1 tourist attraction in Glasgow, and it is massive! It’s FREE to enter, which makes it a perfect rainy-day activity. Here you will find 22 theme art galleries to fill up 2-3 hours of your day.
  • Celtic Park – Take a tour of Celtic Park and learn all about the home football (soccer) team! This tour is perfect for soccer fans no matter the team you support. Get a tour of the stadium and learn a bit of history about the team. If you visit during the soccer season, you can see a game here too!

Edinburgh

Location: 1-hour drive from Glasgow. South of Scotland

Duration: 2-3 Days

The heartbeat of Scotland, Edinburgh is a must-do on any Scotland itinerary and easily tops the list of best places to visit in Scotland. This city is bursting with events, history, and deep mystery. Edinburgh is famously where J.K Rowing wrote most of the Harry Potter book series, and each street tells its own story.

I recommend spending at least 2-3 days here, but honestly, you could spend a few more and still have not seen it all. 

From the moment I landed in Scotland and took the train into Edinburgh, I knew this place was special, and there is good reason many tourists have this city high on their bucket list. Although touristy, there are many ways to avoid crowds while still seeing it all.

 

Things to do

  • Royal Mile – This street is lined with traditional pubs, beautiful churches, and impressive shopping displays. Although you can find many shopping streets in Edinburgh, this one is the biggest and best one.
  • Victoria Street and Grassmarket – Victoria Street is a picture-perfect street curved with shopping and dining at the bottom. Stop by this street early in the morning, before 9 am, or late at night for the best photo opportunities. If you visit in the middle of the day, it will be packed with tourists.
  • Arthur’s Seat Hike – This trail is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, near the Palace of Holyroodhouse (which is also worth a visit). Arthur’s seat trail takes the average person about 1 hour to complete and is a moderate hike to the top. Most people in reasonable health will be able to complete the hike. Best done on a clear day, when you reach the top you are treated to speculate 360-degree views over the city. 
  • Calton Hill – Best done at sunset, head up to Calton Hill to see a spectacular view of the city. On a clear day, this can become very crowded, but worth the visit.
  • Free Walking Tour – Edinburgh is the best place for a walking tour, if the walls could talk, they would have millions of stories.

I did my walking tour with this company and would recommend the Edinburgh City tour as well as the Harry Potter Tour. I also did the ghost tour but wasn’t as impressed. If you only have one, however, I’d recommend the Harry Potter Tour as it mixes a bit of history along with learning about the inspiration.

Isle of Skye

Location: 4 hours and 30-minute drive from Edinburgh. 1-hour 45-minute drive from Fort William

Duration: 2-4 days

This spectacular isle in Scotland tops every list of best places to visit in Scotland, and with great reason! This Isle is packed full of spectacular hiking and sights, ones you can’t find anywhere else in the world. So much so, it is a popular destination for movies to film!

Additionally, this Isle is built for tourists and has plenty of accommodation and dining options on the Isle. It is important to remember to book in advance because many of the hotels sell out during the busy summer months.

The Isle of Skye is a huge isle, which so much to see and do, so it is best to spend a minimum of two days here. While on the Isle of Skye, be prepared to do a lot of driving as it is a massive amount of land and there is a lot to see. 

 

Things to do

  • Fairy Pools – arguably the most famous site on the isle, these fairy pools bring the magic of Scotland to life. It is best to arrive early, as the parking lot can fill up. Additionally, for the best experience, you’ll want to visit on a clear day. 
  • The Old Man of Storr – When you google the Isle of Skye, this is what you will find. This epic photo spot is not to be missed on any Isle of Skype itinerary. Walk along the trail and allow 1-2 hours for your visit. 
  • Hiking – The Isle of Skye is known for its breathtaking views, most of which are reached via hiking. Your car can only get you so far and then it’s best to begin walking. There are numerous trails on the Isle of Skye, and all of them are spectacular, so pack your best hiking boots and enjoy!

Isle of Mull

Location: 4 hours and 25-minute drive from Edinburgh. 2 hours and 30-minute drive from Fort William. 

How long: 1-2 days

The Isle of Mull is mainly made of up an extinct volcano, which leaves some very interesting rock formations and unique sights. This beautiful isle is packed full of epic nature, interesting wildlife, and a rich culture, that any tourist is lucky to witness. 

Although the Isle of Skype may be the more popular Isle to visit, the Isle of Mull is one of the best places to visit in Scotland. Here you will be able to avoid the tourists and transport into the slow-paced life of the Isle of Mull.

Things to do

  • Isle of Staffa – Off the coast of the Isle of Mull you will find Staffa. Staffa is famous for its columns of bath salt lava. This creates pillar-looking hexagon rocks. You must book a boat tour to get up close, but once you arrive you will be transported to another planet.
  • Tobermory Distillery – One of the oldest distilleries in the country and a great way to spend a rainy day or a relaxing evening on the Isle of Mull. 

Oban

Location: 3-hour drive from Edinburgh. 1 hour and 15-minute drive from Fort William.

Duration: 1 day

Last but not least, this seaside town is a great way to slow down during your trip and relax. It’s a small town and a great place for a mini vacation during your busy time in Scotland.

This town is known as the “gateway to the isles”, and offers many ferry rides to different spots. More recently, it has been nicknamed the “seafood capital of Scotland”. If you are a seafood lover, this is the spot for you.

Despite its relatively small size, there is still plenty to do and see in Oban.

Things to do

  • Go to the Beach – Oban’s small town and relaxing vibe make it a great destination to head to the beach. On a nice day, you’ll find coffee shops lining the beach offering a great atmosphere. 
  • Take a day trip – As mentioned, Oban is known as the “gateway to the Isles” and connects via boat or seaplane. A trip to Oban means you can visit some of the hidden gem isles and ones off the beaten path.
  • Book a tour – so many of the tours in Oban offer fantastic opportunities to indulge in traditional Scottish life. Book a walking tour, a day trip, or better yet, a nightlife tour with traditional highlands dancing!

In conclusion, Scotland is a magical place filled with enchanting castles, epic hikes, lush greenery, and more!

Visiting Scotland? Read these!

 

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Best places to visit in Scotland

I’m Danika! A travel obsessed, Disney adult, with a knack for budgeting.

In 2020 I was furlough from my “dream” job at Disney and have pursued my first love of travel ever since. I have traveled to 33 states and 28 countries spanning 5 continents.

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